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Apps4Africa Competition Seeks Climate Change Solutions

By Louise Fenner | Staff Writer | 01 November 2011
Apps4Africa logo showing man standing next to map of Africa embedded with words 'African Solutions to Climate Change' (Courtesy of Apps4Africa)

Apps4Africa logo

Washington — Climate change is the subject of the second annual Apps4Africa challenge, a competition to develop useful mobile and online tools to help manage specific problems facing citizens, communities and governments in Africa.

The Apps4Africa Climate Challenge invites African software developers to create applications for mobile phones and computers to help communities cope with the impact of global warming.

“The Apps4Africa contest is being organized to reward the African innovators (young and old) who see their daily challenges as an opportunity to create,” according to the Apps4Africa website.

The competition is sponsored by the U.S. State Department in partnership with private-sector and nongovernmental organizations. There are three regional competitions: the first was launched in West and Central Africa on October 1, the second in East Africa on October 20, and the third will encompass southern Africa beginning February 1, 2012. Each lasts two months.

Apps4Africa will award a total of $25,000 in each region: $15,000 for first place, $7,000 for second and $3,000 for third. Private partners in the competition may contribute technical assistance, prizes and follow-on support to the winners, such as grant opportunities, help with business plans, or business advice.

The climate change competition builds on the success of last year’s Apps4Africa Civic Challenge, which asked technology entrepreneurs to work with members of civil society to develop solutions to everyday problems, such as how to access government information or obtain timely weather forecasts or health information.

The grand-prize winner was iCow, an agricultural application that helps small-scale farmers in Kenya manage their dairy cattle. It allows a farmer to register his or her cow and receive SMS (text) messages and information; make calculations about feed, the milking calendar, estrus cycles and other variables; and have access to veterinarians, agricultural experts and the Soko livestock market.

TALKING ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE

The competition will include a series of brainstorming sessions bringing together software developers, students, NGOs, business people and others to identify climate problems, propose solutions and submit their apps and ideas to the Apps4Africa Climate Challenge.

On October 21 a session took place in Dakar, Senegal. One group of participants discussed applications for helping people monitor their carbon footprints, and another focused on food security, suggesting an app or social network to help farmers monitor their food supply. A third group suggested a possible mobile phone voice application for farmers who can’t read and write.

With coordination by Uganda software developer Appfrica International, additional brainstorming sessions will be held in November in Accra, Ghana, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and more will be scheduled. People who can’t attend the sessions can have their say by going to the Apps4Africa website and submitting ideas.

The Apps4Africa Climate Challenge is linked to three regional workshops on climate change that are part of the Adaptation Partnership, which brings people together to address adaptation challenges (ways to adjust to the effects of climate change, such as by creating gardens that are habitats for wildlife and growing plants that need less water).

The Adaptation Partnership expects to deliver the results of the workshops and a review of adaptation actions in developing countries at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will take place November 28–December 9 in Durban, South Africa.

“The goal is to ensure that African innovators have the opportunity to contribute their ideas to the discussion that their own and other leaders will partake in at COP-17,” according to Apps4Africa.

Learn about Apps4Africa 2010 contest winner iCow.

See a photo gallery on climate adaptation around the world in “Climate Adaptation: One Community at a Time.”

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)